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How do you avoid probate?

A primary question people ask as they get older is: How do you keep the probate process from mangling your estate?

Probate is like a mean dog that stands between us and putting our life property in the right hands.

It can be avoided almost entirely – but it requires that you think about what you own – your assets, your estate – in a different way.

Probate seeks to prove, or assess, everything you own, and decide if it should go to the people you name.

It’s time-consuming. It costs money. And it may decide to disburse your worldly goods in a different way than you had in mind.

The trick? It’s to not own your property. If your assets are put into someone else’s hands, they do not pass through probate.

Here are some of the options available to you.

  1. Give your property to a family member.
  2. Co-own property, so that the moment you die, the property passes into their hands.
  3. Use financial accounts that turn ownership over to another when you die. These on death transfers can be arranged for savings, savings bonds, mutual funds and other accounts.
  4. Specify beneficiaries on your life insurance
  5. Set up a living, irrevocable trust and place your assets in it.

Easy to set up

These re-titling ideas may sound complicated, but in fact they are quite simple and inexpensive to arrange. They are the same methods used by the ultra-rich to sidestep taxes and delays, but they work just as well for more modest estates. In most cases, they involve a single piece of paper clarifying ownership.

Probate doesn’t have to be a goblin in your and your family’s business. Co-ownership can put your mind at rest – and your loved ones minds as well.

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